ATLANTA -- Georgias watchdog agency over educator ethics recommended a county-level investigation into public complaints about résumé credentials supplied by Bibb County school Superintendent Romain Dallemand. The group also confirmed that it has already recommended the board investigate Dallemands official spending.
The ball is in their court now, said Paul Shaw, the director of educator ethics for the state Professional Standards Commission.
The PSC voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that the Bibb County Board of Education investigate an allegation that Dallemand provided an incorrect title on his résumé.
But they threw out a repeat complaint about Dallemands travel spending, simply because it was a close duplicate of one that they had already forwarded to the Bibb BOE about two months ago.
As Shaw put it, Weve already said to the (Bibb school) board: Here are some allegations about inappropriate spending and travel, and so you need to review your records and determine if theres a violation of contracts.
Some board members said they had been given no information about the previous travel spending complaint and were unable to comment about the résumé issue because they havent been contacted about it by the PSC.
Most of the board, along with Dallemand, were in Savannah on Thursday for the Georgia School Board Association Conference.
Board member Gary Bechtel, who didnt attend the conference, said hes concerned about the lack of communication between the PSC and the board.
It was the first Ive ever heard of it, Bechtel said, referring to the travel spending complaint. If (the media) hadnt covered (the latest complaint), Im not sure we would have heard it was remanded back to the district.
Board member Susan Middleton attended the conference and said she also hadnt heard of the initial complaint and needed to investigate further what procedures need to be followed. She said she couldnt comment on the PSCs ruling.
I wouldnt want to speculate on that, she said. Lets go ahead and resolve this and try to make a well-informed decision.
Board members had varying opinions on what should be done. While Bechtel said that wrong information on a résumé is something the board needs to take seriously, Middleton said the boards main focus needs to be centered on improving the school system and raising the graduation rate in Bibb County.
Board member Tom Hudson said that accusations against Dallemand dont necessarily equal guilt.
I dont want to give my opinion, in case it comes before the board, he said. But everybody should be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Anyone has the right to file a complaint, but theres still a process we must go through. People can make complaints that are true or untrue, and lives, jobs and careers can be damaged because of that.
The Bibb school board is not required to investigate either case or report back to the PSC. Theres no PSC deadline for any investigation.
The complaints were mostly about travel spending, Shaw said. Dallemand, and occasionally top deputies, took at least 18 overnight trips in the year beginning in February 2011, according to a Telegraph count. And the spending limit on one official credit card doubled during the same period.
Two outspoken Dallemand critics, Darren Latch and Bill Knowles, filed the résumé complaint with the state. Theyre questioning the superintendents claimed four years as a mental health therapist in Florida. Dallemand, in a letter to the school board Wednesday, said he has since asked Florida about his title and been told that he should call himself a therapist, not a mental health therapist.
Officials in Florida said Thursday that based upon the current law, Dallemand couldnt call himself a mental health therapist without a license, which he was never issued. However, they noted that some changes in the statute took place since 1994 to 1998, the period in question, and there are some exemptions in place where a therapist wouldnt necessarily need a license.
Dallemand received his masters degree in mental health counseling from the Carlos Albizu University in Miami in 1994.
In an e-mail sent by Dallemand on Wednesday evening to board members, the superintendent wrote he wasnt attempting to deceive anyone when he submitted his résumé and said he would adjust the document to make the change.
Bechtel, however, said the board needs to investigate further other parts of the résumé for any other issues.
Its an admission of guilt, error, however you want to describe it, he said. I think he was aware of it, and I think the board needs to take this very seriously. ... I think (the e-mail) was an effort to throw the board off from pursuing an investigation.
Bechtel also said the board needed to send a letter to PROACT Search, the company that the board hired to conduct a search for a superintendent in 2010 after then-Superintendent Sharon Patterson left the school system. According to the boards contract with the company, the district paid more than $21,000 plus expenses to PROACT to conduct the search.
We hired them to do the vetting, and they certified everything was accurate, Bechtel said.
Multiple attempts by The Telegraph to reach PROACT on Thursday for comment were unsuccessful.
The PSC handed off the résumé question because it is more of a personnel issue than an ethics question.
We just believe that the board is the ultimate authority with the superintendent and needs to first of all be aware of the complaint and second, look at it and decide whether or not it warrants investigation, Shaw said.
In either of the cases, if Bibb officials investigate and decide an ethics complaint is in order, they can send their report to the PSC, and the PSC can recommend punishments -- from a warning to revoking certification to work in Georgias public schools. But if the Bibb BOE members investigate and find malfeasance, they can demand corrections or even fire the superintendent.
Latch, who filed the latest complaint, said he was disappointed that an independent agency wouldnt be conducting an investigation.
I dont think there will be a fair and unbiased investigation into these two complaints, Latch said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail email@example.com. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.